Today we present the report ‘Crossing the contact line’ for October 2021, prepared by the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P). The report is based on data collected during the monitoring of the situation at the EECPs in eastern Ukraine, as well as on the IBCPs “Milove” and “Hoptivka” on the border with Russia.
More statistical data is available on the Online Dashboard.
- During October, crossing the contact line remained possible only through two of the seven EECPs: Novotroitskein Donetska Oblast and Stanytsia Luhanskain Luhanska Oblast. The numbers of people crossing the EECPs are still being affected by COVID-19. The restrictions on the other five EECPs are imposed by de facto authorities as a measure to limit the spread of COVID-19. The number of crossings in October fell by half that of the previous month. According to State Border Guard Service (SBGS) statistics, 28,205 people crossed the contact line in October, compared with 70,000 in September.
On 9 October, the de facto authorities in the Luhansk NGCA temporarily imposed further restrictions on people crossing Stanytsia Luhanska EECP*, in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases. For one month, they only allowed people to cross the contact line who were registered as permanent residents in their place of destination (GCA residents could return to the GCA and NGCA residents to the NGCA). All others needed permission from the de facto authorities for one or more of the following reasons:
- treatment and rehabilitation;
- caring for a relative;
- burial of a relative.
These restrictions, which led to a significant reduction in the number of people crossing, were lifted on 11 November.
- In October, 4,375 vulnerable elderly persons were transported across the Stanytsia Luhanska EECP by an electric vehicle run by the NGO Proliska in cooperation with UNHCR.
- According to the data obtained from the laboratories located at the EECPs, 1,115 persons, 78 per centof those who entered GCA via Novotroitske EECP, took antigen tests for COVID-19 during October, as did 2,226 persons, 22 per centof those who entered GCAvia Stanytsia Luhanska EECP. Meanwhile, in Donetska Oblast, 24 people were referred to the observation facility because they had no compatible smartphone to install the Vdoma app. There were still no state-run observation facilities in Luhanska Oblast.
- Visiting relatives remains NGCA residents’ top reason given for crossing the EECPs since October 2020. Seeking access to banking facilities and administrative/social services (including pension funds) are the other most commonly cited reasons for crossing from the NGCA to GCA areas, as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The requirement to download the Vdoma app continues to be a problem for half those who were asked, especially people aged 60+ (18 per cent of all respondents).
- Crossings through the international border crossing point (IBCP) at Milove in Luhanska Oblast have risen by about 4,000 per month since August. R2P monitors in October noticed more cars with Luhansk number plates, which may indicate that some NGCA residents were there to get round the temporary restrictions at Stanytsia Luhanska EECP after 9 October. R2P monitors also observe very few NGCA residents being fined. NB: Numbers of those crossing the IBCP include all Ukrainians, including those unconnected to the NGCA.
- Reconstruction work (new asphalt and street lights) continued at Milove IBCP. In addition, UNHCR installed shelters and prefabricated modules.
- Lack of shelters, severe weather conditions and infrequent bus services at Hoptivka IBCP make the trip for pedestrians there arduous. Yet, Hoptivka has more crossings than Milove because it is near to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.
- 278 people were sent to the observation facility in October at Milove, compared with 98 people in September.
The report is based on the results of a survey, regularly conducted by the specialists of the Charitable Fund “Right to Protection” (R2P) at the five EECPs in the Government-Controlled Areas (GCA) and administered regularly since June 2017. The survey is a part of the monitoring of violations of the rights of a conflict-affected population within the framework of the project “Advocacy, Protection and Legal Assistance to the Internally Displaced Population” implemented by the R2P with the support of UNHCR.
The purpose of a survey is to explore the reasons and concerns of those traveling from the NGCA to the GCA, as well as conditions and risks associated with crossing the ‘contact line’ through EECPs. The information collected in the survey helps identify protection needs, gaps, and trends, and provides an evidentiary basis for the advocacy efforts.
UNHCR and R2P are grateful for the critical financial support provided by donors who have contributed to the Ukraine operation, as well as those who have contributed to UNHCR programs with broadly earmarked and unearmarked funds.